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*Updated December 22, 2020*
You’re off to Thunder Bay. Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario, the city is a nature lover’s dream. Across the bay rests the famed Sleeping Giant, a large landform which, according to Ojibway legend, was created by the spirit Nanabijou. For time immemorial, the Anishinaabe have lived here. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city saw a great wave of immigration from Finland, and now, Thunder Bay has the largest population of Finns outside of the country. There’s plenty to explore in this community; the vibrant arts and cultural activities on offer reflect the city’s rich history.
EXPLORE THE BAY & ALGOMA DISTRICT – 9:30 AM
DAY 1 – 9:30 AM: EXPLORE THE BAY & ALGOMA DISTRICT
The Bay & Algoma district was one of the early centres of immigration and commercial activity in the region. The growing community of Finns established the Finnish Labour Temple, which served as a meeting place, a library, an auditorium, a spot to grab a bite, and a place for labourers to advocate for better working conditions in the early 1900s.
The area has only grown livelier in the century since. Several public art projects have beautified the street corners, and there are many cafés, shops, and boutiques to explore in the area.
Food Tip: If you’re curious about coffee in the neighbourhood, there are at least three coffeehouses nearby, the Calico among them. You can also enjoy locally sourced dishes and brews at one of the pubs or diners in the area.
Browse the collection at the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery – 12:00 PM
DAY 1 – 12:00 PM: The Anishnabae Art Gallery is a short walk away from the Bay and Algoma district.
The gallery was founded in 1997 by the late Roy Thomas, a leading member of the Woodland School of Art. Roy Thomas passed away in 2004, and the gallery is now owned and operated by his wife, Louise Thomas. The walls are full of artwork made by the nearly 300 Indigenous artists from across Canada that the gallery represents.
Explore Prince Arthur’s Landing – 2:00 PM
DAY 1 – 2:00 PM: THIS scenic stroll, along the revitalized waterfront, IS known as Prince Arthur’s Landing.
A series of piers jut out into the bay; many host pieces of public art that explore the intimate relationship between humanity and water. This peaceful spot is a great place to watch the boats cruise by.
The nearby Baggage Building Arts Centre is an exhibition space and community hub with festivals, performances, and classes taking place year-round. Originally a freight shed, the building was renovated and expanded as part of the redevelopment of the waterfront area.
While on the waterfront, walk over to the Spirit Garden to see the Woodland style steel panels by Roy Thomas and Randy Thomas. Three bentwood shrouds stand around the central Gathering Circle, and several ash logs serve as benches for anyone looking to sit and enjoy the space.
TREK OVER TO HILLCREST PARK – 10:00 AM
DAY 2 – 10:00 AM: START YOUR DAY WITH THE BEST VIEW IN THUNDER BAY
In the heart of downtown Thunder Bay, Hillcrest Park offers an unparalleled view of the city, the bay, and the Sleeping Giant. There’s plenty to see within the park, like the sunken gardens, where over 70 different flowers come together in eye-catching arrangements. For the military history buff, check out the two carronades that point out toward the bay and the memorial to the Lake Superior Regiment who fought at Avion, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, and many other key battles during the First World War.
Food Tip: Hillcrest Park is a fantastic spot for an early morning picnic. You’re not far from the Bay & Algoma district, so you can grab breakfast to go on your way.
Visit the Thunder Bay Art Gallery – 12:00 PM
DAY 2 – 12:00 PM: visit the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and GO FOR A stroll around the grounds of Confederation College.
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery started as a gallery in the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society back in the 1970s. It is now the largest public art gallery in the region, focusing on exhibiting and collecting Indigenous art and contemporary art from Northwestern Ontario. Their permanent collection contains more than 1,600 works of art, including works by Joane Cardinal-Schubert and Norval Morrisseau. And next year, you’ll be able to see the gallery in a brand-new location right on the waterfront. The building, designed by Patkau Architects + Brook McIlroy, is expected to be complete in 2022-2023.
Check out the walking paths and trails on the campus of Confederation College. Enjoy a pleasant stroll along the McIntyre River and take in the fresh air.
Explore the natural landscape and scenery in the city – 3:00 PM
DAY 2 – 3:00 PM: SOAK in the abundant natural beauty that Thunder Bay has to offer.
It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s well worth the trip. Centennial Park is a love letter to the logging industry that helped transform modest Port Arthur into the sprawling city of Thunder Bay. There are several recreational trails as well as spots where you can dip your feet in the water. Visitors can also wave hello to the resident farm animals, ride the Muskeg Express, or walk through a re-creation of an early 20th-century logging camp.
Once you’ve had your fill of the abundant natural beauty, hop in the car and drive out to the Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout. The view is excellent any time of day, but if you’re here in the evening, and the conditions are just right, you can watch the sunset behind the Sleeping Giant in a celestial display you won’t soon forget.
This guide represents a weekend-long experience, highlighting one of the many wonderful destinations in the province. To suggest a destination for a future guide, please contact us.
Tourism Thunder Bay provided information for the creation of this guide. All editorial decisions were made at the sole discretion of Ontario Culture Days staff. The guide was written by Esther Lee.